Need advice dealing with a difficult situation? Send your questions to Miss Conduct.
I stopped talking politics with a longtime friend to save our relationship. But for the past 17 months, he’s become increasingly angry that I refuse to discuss current political subjects and events with him. He’s an “alpha male” who dominates others, because most people are not as invested in contests of wills. I’m one of those people, but I do feel self-respect is worth fighting for and dignity is worth defending. He says he wants to hear my opinion, but giving it will just lead to me being insulted, or to him getting angry because I refuse to take an unjustified beat down graciously. How should I handle this going forward?
M.S. / Framingham
But you don’t have a friend — you have a bully operating under the guise of friendship. According to stereotype, only women do this, but that’s obviously not true. Take your own Exhibit A — A for self-proclaimed “alpha male.” (As a side note, “alpha male” is a phrase that brings home the eccentric brilliance of the English tongue. I don’t think you can express the concept of “I am ignorant of animal behavior and unaware of my own” in a mere two words in any other language.)
Here’s the thing: Friendship has rules, one of the most obvious being that friends are nice to each other. Your boy Alphalpha isn’t meeting baseline requirements. He can either behave decently to you, or you stop having anything to do with him. It would be interesting, the next time he starts in, to simply ask him what he thinks you’re getting out of your current relationship. Don’t let him deflect onto current events — why should you be friends with him? I would be so curious to hear his response.
I fully sympathize with your desire to stand up for truth and justice, and against what Alphalpha and his ilk would like to frame as the American Way. But volunteering willingly to stay “friends” with a bully isn’t taking a stand, or the high road, or anything else worth taking. There are countless ways to fight for the causes that you believe in that are more effective and enjoyable than letting this yappy laddie use you as a rhetorical chew toy.
You’re not obligated to defend your beliefs to him, nor do you need to come up with a reason for severing the friendship that meets with Alphalpha’s approval. Because you can’t. You know that, right? He’s not listening. He doesn’t want to listen. He’s using you as a heavy bag and the heavy bag doesn’t ever get to win a round, because that’s not how the game is played. So walk out. Sure, it could make you another snowflake who can’t handle the truth in his mind, and maybe in his mouth, but so what? You can’t control that. And the actual truth will always be that you’re not ending the friendship. He did, when he decided to use you for target practice.
Miss Conduct is Robin Abrahams, a writer with a PhD in psychology.